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Nathan Freitas responds to Douglas Rushkoff

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Nathan Freitas

I do worry that these digital medium are overtaking the message they bear, gaining an importance simply because they are being used, and not because they are significant in any lasting way themselves. Yes, Twitter is convenient, but in places without it, the phenomenon of Twitter still occurs via text messages, message boards, forums, game chat, taxi radios and so on. In addition, there have been many profound moments throughout history where someone has uttered a statement less than one hundred and forty characters long that has had a huge impact on the world. Whether it be "Ich bin ein Berliner", "Tear down this wall" or "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind", our brains are wired to be moved by the turn of a terse, inspired phrase. In addition, as the Chinese artist and dissident Ai Wei Wei (@AIWW) recently observed, you can say much more in 140 Chinese characters than you can in the Latin alphabet, so the idea that something would be deep or not because it is on Twitter or a blog will hopefully soon be an observation only uttered by dismissive novices.

English: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." (162 characters - untweetable w/o edits sadly)

Chinese translation: 我有一个梦想,我的四个孩子将生活在一个有一天,他们不会被判断他们的肤色,而是以他们的品格的国度里生活。(89 characters! tweet away!)

If I can paraphrase, Dr. King was right (as usual) - it *is* about the content of the characters, and not the color (or length) of them.

As a follow-up to this, here is a writeup I did back in 2004 of the proto-Twitter text messaging system I was involved in setting up and running at the 2004 Republican National Convention protests in New York City. We had 10,000+ people "following" us and reporting back via the UPOC and TXTMob services.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/5403691/RNC04-in-160-Character-Bytes

posted February 2, 2010

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